Credible Investigation Sought Into Bhimadole Custodial Death

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) calls for a credible investigation into the death in custody on May 4, 2022 of Madipalli Apparao (36) of Pothunuru village in Bhimadole mandal. A farm hand, Apparao died in the precincts of the Bhimadole police station of Eluru district. The probe must be conducted by an agency as independent of the local police as possible. As of today, no inquiry has been initiated. According to CrPC 176(1A), this death must be enquired into by a Judicial Magistrate and not an executive magistrate as is being customarily done.

A two-member HRF team today visited Pothunuru, Bhimadole and Eluru and elicited facts surrounding Apparao’s death. We spoke with family members of the deceased, who is rajaka by caste, villagers of Pothunuru, the police of Bhimadole and the RDO of Eluru. We also visited the Bhimdaole police station.

The police version is that Apparao, a habitual offender was arrested on the night of May 3, 2022 for allegedly snatching a chain from a pedestrian. He was kept in the lock up at the police station in Bhimadole where he bolted himself inside the attached toilet sometime around 8:45 am the next day. At about 9 am, the police say they broke in to find him hanging with rope he had managed to get inside the police station. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.

Based on our fact-finding, we find the police version of events to be blatant falsehoods. From what we gathered, it was a clear case of police excess that resulted in the death of Apparao. He was arrested on 29th of April , kept in illegal custody for 4 days and subjected to beatings including to the head. When  his condition deteriorated, the police informed his parents while taking him to hospital where he was pronounced ‘brought dead’.

There are a number of inconsistencies and contradictions in the police narrative that cast aspersion on their account. These doubts can only be clarified and the truth determined if there is an investigation by an agency that is not part of the district police apparatus. Such an investigation must pinpoint blame and prosecute police personnel accordingly. We do not want a whitewash enquiry that usually ends up in a few suspensions and then the matter is closed.

The family of Apparao has to be compensated substantively. This must be in accordance with judgements of the Supreme Court in respect of custodial deaths.

HRF wishes to point out that the insertion of Section 176 (1A) through a significant amendment to the CrPC in the year 2005, mandated that all custodial deaths should be inquired into by a Judicial Magistrate or Metropolitan Magistrate rather than an Executive Magistrate. This provision was inserted by the Criminal Law Amendment Act (Act 25 of 2005) and has come into force on 23-06-2006. The objective of the amendment is to insulate the administration of criminal justice from institutional bias and to ensure that justice is not only done but seems to be done. The inquiry by a judicial officer was intended to be an effective measure to prevent abuse of power. The whole investigation was to be conducted under the gaze of the judiciary, which would thereby act as a check on the investigating agency to act well within its purview. It would also dispel suspicions about foul play. Neither the RDO, Eluru nor any other executive magistrate has any right vested by the law to conduct the inquiry.

We noticed that there were no closed-circuit television (CCTVs) cameras installed at the Bhimadole police station. And this appears to be the case across all police stations in the State. This is clearly in contempt of the exemplary December 2, 2020 judgement of the Supreme Court that directed the Centre, States and Union Territories to install CCTVs with night vision cameras and audio recording in every police station. The SC specified that these cameras must cover “interrogation rooms, entry and exits, lock-ups, corridors, lobbies, reception area, rooms of the sub-Inspector and Inspector, duty officer’s room, in front of the police station compound, back part of the police station and outside washrooms.”

If this landmark order is implemented properly, it will go some way towards reducing custodial violence and human rights abuses and ensuring greater police accountability. However, so far there has only been non-compliance with the order. We urge the State government to see that this SC directive is complied with at the earliest.

Y Rajesh
(HRF A.P state secretary)

G Rohith
(HRF A.P state executive committee member)


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